0443 GMT April 22, 2019
The delegation had delayed its planned departure for the talks, which began on Tuesday, because of the opposition’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, Reuters wrote.
The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has received assurances that the Syrian government delegation will attend the talks, UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a Geneva news briefing.
“At least we know that they are coming,” she said, declining to give details on who transmitted the message from Damascus.
A Syrian newspaper reported on Monday that the delay was because of the opposition’s insistence that Assad step down, which he has refused to do.
Nasr Hariri, head of the opposition delegation, told a Geneva news conference on Monday night that he is aiming for Assad’s removal as a result of negotiations.
Previous rounds of negotiations over the past five years have failed to achieve a tangible result, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that Assad should cede power.
Damascus has time and again slammed foreign interference in the country’s affairs reiterating that only Syrians have the right to elect their leaders and decide for the future of the nation.
Meanwhile, de Mistura told reporters on Tuesday that the Syrian government and opposition negotiators will have the chance to hold direct talks for the first time, adding that it is not clear if they will take it.
“We are going to offer it. We will see if this takes place. But we will be offering that,” de Mistura said after meeting the opposition delegation at their hotel.
Syria’s territorial integrity “non-negotiable”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that Syria’s territorial integrity is an absolute necessity and a principle which is non-negotiable.
Lavrov told Russian Interfax News Agency that Syria’s territorial integrity is confirmed in UN Security Council resolutions and approved in Sochi tripartite summit of Russia, Iran and Turkey, noting that Resolution 2254 stipulates that Syrians are the only ones who will decide the destiny of their country.
He added that the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, scheduled in Sochi, aims to help make constitutional reform and prepare for the upcoming elections in Syria, saying that the date of the congress will be announced later.